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soc.culture.bulgaria FAQ (monthly posting) (part 2/10)

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Last-Modified: July 17, 2000
Posting-Frequency: Monthly
Version: 4.11
URL: http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~radev/cgi-bin/bgfaq.cgi
Archive-Name: bulgaria-faq/part2

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===============================================================================
CHAPTER  3:  VISITING BULGARIA


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-1 Travel agencies dealing with Bulgaria
(by Plamen Bliznakov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994
Telefoni i FAX na letishte JFK :

(718) 656-8235
(718) 656-8370
(718) 656-0119
(mislja, poslednoto e FAX)

Adresqt e E. Wing, Building 51
JFK International Airport
Jamaica, NY 11430

1-800 - nomera imat dve ot agenciite, specializirani v bileti za BG.

Balkan Holidays - predstavljavat Balkan ot poveche vreme
(800) 852-0944 (obshto vzeto ne go reklamirat za p`tnici, idejata
                e kato che li poveche da go polzvat travel agent-i)
(212) 573-5530
(212) 573-5538 (FAX)

Intervega - rabotjat sravnitelno ot skoro
(800) 677-9089

Sofia Travel - s`shto sa sravnitelno otskoro v NY
(212) 247-8091
(212) 247-3810 (FAX)

Poslednite dve agencii kato che li predlagat po-niski ceni
(makar che imat dop`lnitelni taksi za pokupka na bileti s kreditna
karta, v krajna smetka mozhe da izleze i s`shtata suma).

Ima e agencija s E-mail adres : TraveLB@aol.com

Po princip, v njakoi sluchai agenciite mogat da predlozhat i cena 
po-niska ot tazi, kojato Balkan shte dade direktno na p`tnika.
No p`k v njakoi sluchai chovek se nalaga da se obadi direktno
na Balkan.

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3-2 Telephones of Balkan Airlines 
(by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994
(212) 371-2047
(212) 573-5530

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3-3 Visa info for foreigners 
(by Plamen Bliznakov)
Visitors should have valid passports.  No visa is required for Americans
visiting up to 30 days.

Entry or transit visas could be obtained at Bulgarian Embassies and
Consulates abroad.

Some Addresses :
In the USA
The Consular Office of the Bulgarian Embassy
1621 22nd Street N.W., Washington, DC 20008
Phone: (202) 483-5885

In Canada
The Consular Office of the Bulgarian Embassy
100 Adelaide Street, Toronto, Ontario M5H 1S3
Phone (416) 363-7307

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3-4 Tourist Information
(by Dragomir R. Radev)
Off-peak Europe in brief

[...]

During the winter, there's top skiing (Borovets has been the site of World
Cup competitions) plus a Christmas and New Year's Festival in the country's
5,000-year-old capital, Sofia. Come spring, Black Sea resorts are magnets
for vacationing Europeans.
    Year-round, Bulgaria is on of the best bargains in Europe. In fact, a
seven-day air/land package (New York-Sofia) starts as low as $825 per person.
Ski Bulgaria packages - offered by Balkan Holidays - start as low as $1,000
per person, including roundtrip airfare to Sofia, six nights' first-class
accomodations, breakfast and dinner daily, equipment rental and lift passes,
and ski-school tuition.
    Best shopping buys include antiques, leather goods, perfume, ceramics
and woordcrafts.

Bulgarian Tourist Information Center: 41 East 42nd St., Suite 508,
New York, NY 10017, (212) 573-5530

Source: NYT supplement "Your invitation to Europe", October 10, 1993
      
 

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3-5 Useful Contacts in Bulgaria 
(by Department of Commerce of the USA, Eastern Europe Business Bulletin)
American Embassy Sofia
John Fogarasi, Commercial Attache
No.1 Bulgaria Square
NDK Administration Building, 5th Floor
Sofia, Bulgaria
(APO NY 09213-5740)
Tel: 359-2-65-94-64 (or 359-2-88-48-01 ext. 307)
Fax: 359-2-80-38-50 (or 80-19-77)
Telex: 22690 BG
 
Ministry of Industry & Trade
Boris Nachev, International Trade Specialist
8, ul. Slavyanska
1000 Sofia, Bulgaria
Tel: 359-2-80-37-28
Fax: 359-2-89-76-05
   Evgeni Kharalanov, U.S. Desk Officer
   Tel: 359-2-87-24-20
   Fax: 359-2-89-76-05
 
Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Vladimir Lambrev, President
11A, A.Stamboliiski Blvd.
1000 Sofia, Bulgaria
Tel: 359-2-87-26-31
Fax: 359-2-87-32-09
 
Bulgarian-American Enterprise Fund
Ms. L. Searle Vetter, Managing Director
3 Shipka Street
Sofia, Bulgaria
Tel: 359-2-44-18-62
Fax: 359-2-43-89-47
 
 

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3-6 Visit to Bulgaria 
(by Jan Terziyski)
The airport is 3km from the Sofia living areas (Druzhba, Iskyr, etc.).
The buses depart every 20min, but in the rush hours you can get on
for 5 min or so. Tickets ARE AVAILABLE on board, but one has to by a 
bunch of ten or five to ease the driver who may not have change. For the 
tourists who have reserved rooms in bigger hotels by travelling agency, 
there are buses going directly to the hotel(I know about Varna, but such 
a service should be available in Sofia).

There are 4 main international roads, used by tourists and cargo-trucks: 
Kalotina-Sofia-Plovdiv-Svilengrad, Vidin-Sofia-Kulata,
Russe-Pleven-Sofia-Kulata and Russe-Sliven-(to Turkey and to Greece). 
                 
 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-7 Hotels in Bulgaria
(by Plamen Bliznakov), last updated: 06-Apr-1994
Bulgaria has some 400 international hotels with 100,000 beds, half of which
are located in the Black Sea resorts.  In all major cities and tourist
places there is at least one good First Class hotel. Some of the hotels are
built with Western partners and are jointly managed.  In Sofia you can stay
at Deluxe hotels like the Sheraton Balkan Hotel, the Vitosha Hotel or the
First class Novotel Evropa, Rodina or Grand Sofia Hotel.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-8 Where to sleep in Bulgaria
(by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994
WHERE TO SLEEP

Stay in private accommodations whenever and wherever you can.
Whether it's a private room in a house or a private hotel (each
$5-$7 per night), you will be much better off than if you stay
in a state-run establishment, where prices vary according to your
nationality. In the latter, foreigners pay exorbitant prices - 
as much as $100 - $150 per night, which is about 10-20 times
the amount a Bulgarian would pay. Even if you speak Bulgarian,
the mandatory display of your passport will give you away. If that
were not bad enough, the typical Balkantourist hotel is run-down
and dirty. Hot water is rarity; plumbing and electrical problems
are not.



-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-9 The Sheraton Hotel in Sofia
(by Dragomir R. Radev), last updated: 07-Jun-1995
Sheraton Sofia
5, Sveta Nedelya Sq.
$180 per night
359-2-876541
1-800-325-3535


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-10 Renting Cars
(by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 06-Sep-1995
CITY RENT - VARNA  10,Dragan Tsankov str.
tel: 359/52/256977
Lada (1 month) 640 $ (insurance and VAT included)
Price goes up respectively with the size of the vehicle
Hertz or Avis charge nearly double



-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-11 Eating in Bulgaria
(by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994
The staple in most restaurants is meat - and don't expect a large selection.
The loud music at diner is meant to keep you occupied while you wait. It's
common to share tables if a place is crowded, which can be a plus or minus,
depending on whom you are stuck with. The "smetkata" (bill) won't be brought
to you until you ask for it.  It's a good idea to request a menu and check
the addition - errors are common. Whether you are dining out or weighing
veggies at the marketplace, you will find that food is extremely cheap. The
major obstacles are finding it and waiting in line for it. ...

Many locals consider Sofia's restaurants overpriced and are wary of being
overcharged by money-hungry waiters, who tend to prey on foreigners but who
have recently begun pulling scams on locas as well.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-12 Bringing electrical devices to Bulgaria 
(by Dragomir R. Radev), last updated: 02-Jul-1996
Be careful when bringing electrical appliances from the U.S. to Bulgaria.
The voltage there (as in the rest of Europe) is 220 V. Don't lose your
equipment to the high voltage! In addition to this, note that the frequency
used in Bulgaria is 50 Hz, not 60 Hz.
 
In addition to this, please note that plugs (and outlets) in Bulgaria are
different than those in the U.S. So, even if your computer (VCR, or whatever)
can operate at 220 V, you will still need a special plug (it's better to
purchase it before coming to Bulgaria, since you might not be able to find
one there).

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-13 Information for drivers 
(by Plamen Bliznakov), last updated: 06-Apr-1994

Bulgaria is connected with neighbouring countries by a broad network of
motorways.  Motorists entering the country are required to provide
valid driver's license (a regular US driver's license is sufficient),
car registration, and an insurance policy covering third party liability
known as the "green card".  The latter can be obtained at the border,
but buying it in advance typically costs less.

Gas stations in Bulgaria are located 25-30 kilometers (15-20 miles)
apart.  Hours of operation in most cases are 6 a.m. (6:00) to 10 p.m.
(22:00).  Few gas stations in big cities and key junctions are open 24
hours a day.  Unleaded gasoline is available at the border checkpoints,
in Sofia and the large Black Sea and mountain resorts, and along the
major motorways.

Speed limits : for cars - 60 km/h (37 MPH) within city limits,
80 km/h (50 MPH) on roadways outside cities and 120 km/h (75 MPH)
on highways.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-14 Time, office hours (by Plamen Bliznakov)
(by Plamen Bliznakov), last updated: 06-Apr-1994
Time

Local time: GMT+2 or EST+7.  As in most European countries, summer
daylight saving time is being introduced from the last weekend of
March till the last weekend of September.

Business Hours

Shopping

Usually open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. (9:00) to 1 p.m. (13:00) and
from 2 p.m. (14:00) to 7 p.m. (19:00).

Banks

Typically work with customers Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. (8:00)
till noon (12:00).

Museums

From 9 a.m. (9:00) to 5 p.m. (17:00).  Admission fees are $ 1 - $ 3.

Restaurants

Meals may be ordered until 11 p.m. (23:00).

Government offices

Monday to Friday 9 a.m. (9:00) to 6 p.m. (18:00) with a lunch break.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-15 Local Calls
(by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 03-Jan-1997
Public phones are plentiful but require coins, which
you deposit at the top of the phone after dialing the number.
Stockpile a few of these coins, since they are rare, and venders
eschew dispensing change to foreigners. ...

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-16 Sending Mail Home
(by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994
Unless you plan on staying in Bulgaria for quite a long time,
you will probably arrive home before your mail. Letters to other
parts of Europe can take as long as two weeks to arrive, and letters
to the US can take anywhere from two weeks to two months.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-17 Police Assistance
(by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994
The police are not that helpful to their fellow Bulgarians,
let alone foreigners who do not speak the language, so do not 
expect much.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-18 Medical care for foreigners
(by Plamen Bliznakov), last updated: 06-Apr-1994
Bulgaria has well-trained medical personnel.

No charge is made for consultations about, or treatment of, emergency
cases.  There is a clinic for foreigners in Sofia.  Its address is:
1 Evgeni Pavlovski Str., Mladost 1, Sofia;  Phone (02) 75-361.
The prices for the medical treatment and medicines there are
reasonable.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-19 Contraceptives and Safe Sex
(by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994

Sexual attitudes in Bulgaria are fairly liberal. Prostitution
is rampant, especially in resort towns and seaports. Casual
sex is definitely not a taboo, and condoms are readily available
in pharmacies. ...

You get what you pay if you buy 2 cents Bulgarian condoms (a.k.a.
Medbio Protex) - they have the annoying tendency of decomposing or 
falling apart as they are unrolled. They don't ever work as balloons 
or soap containers. Foreign-made condoms (mostly Chinese and Japanese)
exist, but they are hard to find. ...

Although public displays of affection among the same sex are common,
homosexuality is not openly accepted. As far as attitudes toward
homosexuality go, Bulgarians waver between denial and intolerance.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-20 Taxi
(by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 31-Jul-1994
There are two types of taxis: state and private. Many do not
have meters, and the fares are calculated from the driver's
odometer. Agree on a rate ahead of time and note the distance 
traveled, or negotiate a flat fee for the trip, since the
drivers have a tendency to overcharge.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-21 How to use credit cards in Bulgaria 
(by Plamen Bliznakov)
During my two-week stay in Bulgaria I tried to check how cash could be obtained
from a cradit card account or by cashing a traveller's cheque.
 
First, there was an office of American Express recently established in Sofia.
It is located at Batemberg square, at the former office of Yugoslavian airlines
JAT. One can obtaing emergency cash from his/her account in this office. I am
not sure what is the commission they take for that service. Almost $ 1000 were
available to me.
 
Second, Balkantourist is a travel representative of AMEX, offering many
services in their office on 1, Vitosha Blvd., including traveller's mail,
cashing traveller's cheques, getting cash from AMEX credit card account, etc.
They charge 1 % commission + 10 BGL per traveller's cheque for cashing the
latter. If you want to use your AMEX charge card, it will cost you 4.5 %
commission, and you can get cash only in Bulgarian leva, according to
Balkantourist rate.
 
Several other exchange bureaus also can give you Bulgarian leva charging
your credit card account (AMEX, Visa, Mastercard), but all I have seen
charge 8 % commission.
 
AMEX traveller's cheques can be cashed in some banks as well. One of them
is the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which has
an office on the 3 floor of EuropaPalace Hotel (former Hotel Rila) in the
center of Sofia. First Private Bank also cashes AMEX as well as Mastercard
traveller's cheques. You can check with Balkan Air Tours (the office of
Balkan Airlines at Sofiyska Communa St.) for cashing AMEX and Eurocheques.
 
Credit cards are accepted for payments of airline tickets at offices of
Balkan Airlines, as well as by many travel agencies. Yoy can also use
major cards for purchases at CUM and some other stores (e.g., Boujour chain
of Stambouli brothers - Cyprus). You can certainly use a credit card at the
duty free shops (e.g., at Sofia airport). In a TV interview they also said that
a chain of private gas stations now under construction will also start
accepting credit cards.
 
 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3-22 Can Bulgarians exchange leva for hard currency
(by Vassil Peychev), last updated: 01-Jan-1994
You can buy any amount of dollars from a "Change" office, which are
everywhere in the bigger cities. However, to be able to get the currency out
of the country you need a document, certifying where you have it from - for
this, you need an international passport (no visa), and the limit is 10,000
lv. However, you can usually get away with a slightly higher amount, and in
my experience the customs officers don't care. If you bring currency in, you
can take it out with your entry customs form, so don't throw it away!


P.S. Some numbers look suspicious to me (e.g., prices for a round-trip
travel with a stay up to 1 year are the same for Economy class and for
Business class; also, two one-ways are cheaper than one 1-year round-trip
travel). However, this are the prices which the agency my wife works at
received officially. I might ask her to verify some specific figures if
there is interest.
 
Also, soon the limit will be 50,000 leva, and if you need the money for
medical care abroad or for education, there is no limit - but I guess this
would involve some unpleasant amount of paperwork.
 
 

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3-23 Exchange Rate for the Bulgarian Lev (1995-1997)
(by Andrey Savov), last updated: 29-May-1997
Rough estimate: Exch. rate:

Nov-95	65	
Dec-95	70	
Jan-96	75	
Feb-96	80	
Mar-96	85	
Apr-96	95	
May-96	150	
Jun-96	151	
Jul-96	185	
Aug-96	190	
Sep-96	230	
Oct-96	231	
Nov-96	260	
Dec-96	490	
Jan-97	870	
Feb-97	2700	
Mar-97	1600	
Apr-97	1550	

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3-24 Bulgarian Addresses
(by Vladimir Alexiev), last updated: 15-Jan-1997
The syntax of the addresses is:

[name]
[street address]
[county]
[city/village] [code]

PO Box          Poshtenska kutia (PK)
Boulevard       Bulevard        bul.
Street          Ulica           ul.
Street number   Nomer           no. (or can be omitted, written after the
                                     street name)
Square          Ploshtad        pl.
Ciry district   Kvartal         kv.
Apartment block Blok            bl.
Block entrance  Vhod            vh.
Apartment       Apartament      ap.

The code is 4 decimal digits. Sometimes the lines of the address can be
written in the opposite order. 



-- 
Drago
-- 
Drago

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